Three-time world champion Wout van Aert lit up a freezing cold afternoon at the Sports Ireland Campus in Abbotstown, Dublin as he claimed round nine of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup before a 5,000-strong crowd - the first event of its kind in this country.

The 28-year old Belgian (Team Jumbo Visma), a nine-time Tour de France stage winner, was in scintillating form as he put each of his rivals to the sword with a swashbuckling victory - despite some misfortune over the seven-lap contest.

It was always billed as a head-to-head against arguably the sport´s biggest name - the 23-year old reigning world Champion Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) - and when van Aert suffered a disastrous mechanical on lap 3, Pidcock applied the pressure and managed to pull away with a select group of half a dozen others.

Behind, the mercurial Belgian somehow managed to get a rival team mechanic´s towel caught up in his rear wheel and his location on the 3.5-kilometre course meant he had to dismount from his bike, run 30 metres back against his oncoming challengers, and into the adjacent pits where he eventually scrambled to get a bike change.

That untimely issue came on the back of two earlier mishaps and very much handed the initiative to the likes of other pre-race favourites Eli Iserbyt, World Cup Series leader Laurens Sweeck as well as Pidcock and the European champion Michael Vanthourenhout.

Van Aert lost around 20 seconds in the chaos - an often insurmountable chunk of time in the small margins discipline of cyclo-cross, but he never panicked and instead, ramped up the intensity and was back on level terms by the end of the penultimate lap.

With the crowd urging him on, van Aert responded with a trademark attack on a deep, technical sandy section. He had little difficulty distancing his rivals who were left gasping for breath behind and when he emerged onto firmer ground it already looked like a race for second.

A general view of action during the Men's Elite race

Though overnight rain and a packed schedule of support races over the weekend made the ground a complete mud bath, a slip looked like the only thing that would derail a rampant Van Aert as the finish line loomed.

Alas, he was coolness personified in the closing kilometres as he extended his winning margin to 14 seconds, from the aforementioned Sweeck who retained his series lead by virtue of second today, with last year's Olympics MTB champion Pidcock rounding out the podium in third a further three seconds back.

Meanwhile, Dutch rider Fem Van Empel her series advantage over compatriot Puck Piterse in the Elite Women's World Cup by virtue of victory following a brilliant duel, also this afternoon.

Van Empel has dominated this year's World Cup and today´s win was six from nine for the 20-year old.

She was made to fight all the way on today´s five-lap contest, eventually dispatching her rival in the sprint for the line that decided matters.

Pieterse has been consistent throughout the season too, and her silver today means she's been on the podium in all seven events she´s entered. An incredible run for one of the sport´s most promising talents.

Her result today is all the more impressive given she crashed on the opening lap today and was forced into an early an untimely bike change which cost her valuable time and energy.

In a 1-2-3 for the Dutch it was Denise Betsema who completed the podium.